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Menu Talk with Pat and Bret

Chef Gayle Pirie of Foreign Cinema in San Francisco strives to create a haven from daily troubles

The partner of the Mission District restaurant is a cheerleader for her hometown


Gayle Pirie is the chef and partner, with John Clark, of Foreign Cinema, a dining institution in San Francisco’s Mission District that has been nourishing its guests with Mediterranean-inspired California cuisine, as well as with movies projected on the restaurant’s wall, for the past 25 years.

She grew up in San Francisco and funded her ambitions as an oil painting artist by cooking. From 1985 to 1993 she worked with her mentor, Judy Rogers, at Zuni Café, and then went on to launch a restaurant consulting practice. That was followed by work with Alice Waters at Chez Panisse in Berkeley, Calif., as her personal assistant. She joined Clark at Foreign Cinema in 2001.

Pirie takes her role as a “restaurateur” seriously. The word is French for “someone who restores,” and she does that by fostering the success of her employees, local producers, and her community as well her guests.

She is also a pioneer in sustainability practices, including her recent adoption of oil from Spotlight Foods, headquartered not far away in Alameda, Calif., that is derived from algae.

Pirie recently discussed this new oil as well as her approach to running her restaurant and her plans for the future.

Contact Bret Thorn at [email protected] 

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